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Lives Moved to New South Wales: Free Passage for Convicts’ Families

by Familia Ulster Genealogical Review: No. 26, 2010


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by Perry McIntyre

"Between 1788 and 1840, 80,000 mainly English and Irish convicts were transported to New South Wales. A considerable number of studies of convicts have appeared in the last twenty years but detailed studies of free emigration to colonial Australia prior to 1840 are surprisingly few and assumptions remain that any examination of the people in the early colony would simply address convict populations.

Convicts have been regarded as a people without choice, but for one group of approved and well-behaved convicts the British and colonial governments facilitated colonisation through family reunion. Over 2,000 married convicts applied under a formal scheme for their families to have a free passage to the colony. This paper looks at the 237 Ulstermen who took up the scheme available to reformed convicts and applied for their families. It provides a glimpse of their experiences and cuts across historical assumptions about convicts, transportation, emigration and the colony of New South Wales, making connections that are otherwise obscured."

This article shows how the personal and family lives of the convicts in New South Wales impinged on the broader economical and political events in Ulster and the colonies.